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Creativity "Misrules": First Year Engineering Students’ Production and Perception of Creativity in Design Ideas


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We report four cases from a larger study, focusing on participants’ self-identified “most creative” concept in relation to their other concepts. As part of an ideation session, first-year engineering students were asked to create concepts for one of two engineering design problems in an 85-minute period, and were exposed to one of two different forms of fixation. Participants worked as individuals, first using traditional brainstorming techniques and generating as many ideas as possible. Design Heuristics cards were then introduced, and students were asked to generate as many additional concepts as possible. After the activity, participants ranked all of the concepts they generated from most to least creative. Representative cases include a detailed analysis of the concept that each participant rated as “most creative,” idea generation method used, and relative location and relationship of the concept to other concepts generated by that participant. Across four cases, we identified a number of characteristic “misrules” or misconceptions, revealing that first-year students judge creativity in their concepts in ways that could inhibit their ability to produce truly novel concepts. We present Design Heuristics as a tool to encourage the exploration of creative concept pathways, empowering students to create more novel concepts by rejecting misrules about creativity.

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Creativity "Misrules": First Year Engineering Students’ Production and Perception of Creativity in Design Ideas

  1. 1. CREATIVITY “MISRULES” First Year Engineering Students’ Production & Perception of Creativity in Design Ideas Colin M. Gray1, Seda Yilmaz1, Shanna R. Daly2, Colleen M. Seifert2, & Richard Gonzalez2 1 IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY 2 UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
  2. 2. CREATIVITY & ENGINEERING • Increase in design activities for first-year engineering students (Dym & Little, 2004; Ogot & Okudan, 2006) • Pedagogical tools and strategies have been developed to increase creative potential (Dym et al., 2005; Tolbert & Daly, 2013) Specific barriers students face in learning how to be creative are unclear (Csikszentmihalyi, 1988; Tolbert & Daly, 2013)
  3. 3. KNOWN BARRIERS • Fixation as one diagnostic outcome of the lack of creative ability (Purcell & Gero, 1996) • Tools can be used to effectively discourage fixation and increase capability (Daly et al., 2010; Smith & Linsey, 2011; Smith, Linsey, & Kerne, 2011) • Inaccurate beliefs about creativity slow the development of creative ability
  4. 4. “MISRULES” • Inaccurate beliefs have been studied in other educational domains as “bugs” or “misrules” (Brown & VanLehn, 1980; Engelmann, 1993) • Such beliefs are deeply held, and difficult to document or change without deep knowledge of how beliefs are built and systemically altered (Carnine & Becker, 2010) We are assuming that students’ tacit biases about creativity shape their labeling of designs as “creative,” and may serve as a barrier to their creation and recognition of truly novel and useful concepts
  5. 5. RESEARCH QUESTIONS 1. Where do first-year engineering students identify their “most creative” idea in an idea generation activity, when compared with all generated concepts? 2. What characterizes the relationship between a participant’s espoused belief about creativity and their ordering of creative concepts? 3. Does Design Heuristics as a pedagogical tool have an impact on the student’s perception of a concept’s creativity?
  7. 7. DESIGN HEURISTICS Provides prompts to help designers generate alternatives that vary in nature, discouraging fixation and encouraging divergent patterns of thinking (Yilmaz, Daly, Seifert, & Gonzalez, 2011; Yilmaz, Seifert, & Gonzalez, 2010) Derived from empirical evidence of industrial and engineering designs (Daly et al., 2012; Yilmaz, Christian, Daly, Seifert, & Gonzalez, 2012; Yilmaz & Seifert, 2010) Validated through a range of product analysis, case studies, and protocol analyses, in both educational & professional contexts (e.g., Yilmaz & Seifert, 2009; Yilmaz et al., 2011; Yilmaz et al., 2010; Yilmaz et al., 2013; Yilmaz, Daly, Christian, Seifert, & Gonzalez, 2014)
  8. 8. METHOD • 156 first-year engineering students • Two-day design-build-test activity prior to matriculation at a large research university • 85-minute idea generation session, using brainstorming and Design Heuristics methods • Survey on beliefs about creativity, ranking their concepts from most to least creative
  9. 9. EXPERIMENTAL CONDITIONS DESIGN PROBLEM bike rack FIXATION SOURCE existing solution DESIGN PROBLEM bike rack FIXATION SOURCE self-generated solution DESIGN PROBLEM spill-proof coffee cup FIXATION SOURCE existing solution DESIGN PROBLEM spill-proof coffee cup FIXATION SOURCE self-generated solution
  10. 10. IDEATION SESSION BRAINSTORMING 30 MINUTES DESIGN HEURISTICS 30 MINUTES Generate as many ideas as possible INSTRUCTION Generate as many additional ideas as possible
  12. 12. Subset (Method) Participants (% male) Most Creative Concept (Least) M (BS) M (DH) I (BS) 21 (38.1%) -0.76 (0.05) 4.19 2.76 II (BS) 54 (70.4%) -0.30 (-0.27) 4.91 3.10 III (DH) 50 (60.0%) 0.37 (-0.32) 3.72 2.68 IV (DH) 31 (80.6%) 0.77 (-0.31) 4.55 3.06 TOTAL 156 (65.4%) 0.06 (-0.25) 4.36 2.91 FOUR CASES
  13. 13. FOUR CASES
  14. 14. EXAMPLE CASE: BROOKE (I) A section of the roof of the car can be brought down so it is in the back seat or the floor when the seats are down. The bikes can be attached to the roof on clamps that are located on the roof already. Once attached, controls lift the roof back into place, with the bikes already secured. MOST CREATIVE LEAST CREATIVE
  15. 15. EXAMPLE CASE: LINDA (IV) MOST CREATIVE LEAST CREATIVE The bike is fastened to a rack that is just above ground level (attached with locks like any normal bike). The ground-level rack collapses to a rack sticking off the back of the car, and then the rack collapses in so the bike is above the car.
  16. 16. CREATIVITY “MISRULES” Creative Concepts Must Never Have Been Thought Of Before Creative Concepts Must Be As Little Like Shipping Products as Possible. Creative Concepts Are Generally Impractical Creative Concepts Must Be Completely Creative
  17. 17. DESIGN HEURISTICS TO COMBAT MISRULES Creative Concepts Can Be Based on Existing Ideas Creative Concepts Can Improve on Shipping Products Creative Concepts Can Be Practical Ordinary Concepts Can Have Creative Components
  18. 18. THANK YOU This research is funded by the National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education, Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES Type II) Grants # 1323251 and #1322552. COLINGRAY.ME DESIGNHEURISTICS.COM